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Coastal Bend not immune to state's fentanyl overdose crisis

"There has been a lot of overdose deaths in Corpus Christi that all occurred because of fentanyl and most of the time these people didn't even know..." said Tamez.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Governor Greg Abbott is taking new measures to stop drugs from crossing our borders in response to the growing fentanyl epidemic, classifying cartels as terrorist.

There has been a reported 89-percent increase in fentanyl related deaths in Texas.

Fentanyl is something that has been around for a while. Described as a very strong pain medicine that is 50-to-100 times more addictive and more potent than morphine. Something that is now being trafficked by cartels, made to look like pills and even candy, but it also comes with deadly consequences. 

"It is the cocaine of the 80's, its the new epidemic we are seeing its very potent and highly addictive," said Mike Tamez with the District Attorney's Criminal Interdiction Unit.

The unit patrols Highway 77 in an effort to stop illegal cartel smuggling. He said fentanyl is popping up on their radar more frequently.

"To give you an idea of how much Fentanyl we're having, I recently helped out a port of entry in Roma with an 18 wheeler they had," Tamez said. "Long story short, there was 55 kilos of Fentanyl inside."

However, the biggest concern he said is that the drug is already present in the city. 

"There has been a lot of overdose deaths in Corpus Christi that all occurred because of fentanyl," Tamez said, "and most of the time they didn't even know it was in the drugs."

That's because he said the cartels are also using it to cut other drugs like cocaine and heroin. In fact, he said the vast majority of overdose deaths in Corpus Christi are all a result of fentanyl. 

Its addictive nature means big business for cartels.

"At $25,000 a kilo, that is how much they are paying per kilo, as it goes further north it increases up to $40,000 around the Houston area," Tamez said. 

It was last month when country artist Luke Bell died of an accidental fentanyl overdose. He was just 32 years-old. 

Dr. John Lusins, president of medical staff of Corpus Christi Medical Center Bayview, said the impacts of the drug are far reaching. 

The facility provides behavioral health services in South Texas.

"Its so strong they are coming in to get off heroin, but they are having overdoses that happen in the emergency department or out when getting treated by first responders," Lusins said. 

Seeing just how deep the hardships of addiction can run, Lusins reminds residents that it is never to late to seek treatment.

"Get off of opioids and there's multiple ways, its very difficult but the withdraw won't kill you," Lusins said. 

Tamez said you can report unlawful activities at 1 (877) 792-2873 or (361) 888-8477.

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